The Ontario Hockey League trading deadline is this Friday at noon but Guelph Storm coach and manager Jason Brooks would like to have his house in order by Thursday. He does not want to be left scrambling Friday morning filling roster spots.
Time will be of the essence as the week unfolds. The giant elephant in the room is Thomas McCollum. Everyone knows he might be moved but ironically, it’s not really in Brooks’ hands.
“Right now there is a lot of talking and a lot of scenarios being discussed” said Brooks, “but something will have to happen that will trigger the first move and get everything moving.”
He wouldn’t mention any names but Oshawa star John Tavares seems to be the key to everything. If London picks him up as expected does that force Windsor to react by getting McCollum? Does it force another team to step up for Dan Kelly of the Rangers or Nathan Martine of the Storm? Does another club suddenly figure they’d have a shot at winning if they had McCollum in net? On the other side, maybe teams shy away from the Storm netminder after a so-so World Junior tournament.
If Brooks only receives a token offer he may decide to go on the offensive and upgrade what he has now to make a run and possibly pull off a playoff upset.
“(Thomas) is too damn valuable of a piece that I won’t just trade him because he is a 19-year-old goaltender” said Brooks. “Either way we need a veteran defenceman who can help run our powerplay and give us some depth” said Brooks. “We all know that after Christmas things get a lot tighter and we have a very young defence so that would make it tough.”
In past years the Storm has been in the same position with marketable veteran players but chose to do nothing. Solid defencemen Ryan Parent and Michael Caruso were not dealt for younger players and while it made everyone feel good at the time, the team has paid a price over the long haul.
Talking about trades is easy – making a deal is extremely complicated. The best case scenario sees many teams bidding for a key player but with McCollum that isn’t the case. Windsor is the most obvious possibility and there is at least one of other team that has shown interest but that isn’t exactly a bidding war. The other thing working against the Storm is that Windsor’s goaltender, Andrew Engelage, isn’t exactly stinking the joint out. He is not far behind McCollum in both save percentage and goals against average, but most would agree he is at least a save or two behind McCollum and Belleville’s Mike Murphy.
Windsor could be of the mind that they have a good shot at winning this year with Engelage and a really good chance next year if they hang onto young goaltender Brandon Maxwell, a player the Storm would want in return for McCollum.
The worst place Guelph could end us is with empty hands at the deadline. The Storm had hoped to land a defenceman currently playing in the NCAA but after promising discussions, that didn’t work out so it’s back to the drawing board.
Brooks admits a few deals he thought might get done have fallen through for one reason or another. One roadblock is that he figures about 75% of his current players have a no-trade clause in their contracts.
“I’ve talked to some of them already about the possibility of being traded” said Brooks, “because I don’t want to blindside anyone.”
This is the most important week in Brooks’ development as a general manager. He will receive and propose many offers this week and the decisions he will make will certainly affect the franchise for the next couple of years.